I’ve played on mobile/handheld games consoles all my life, so much so that they’ve probably made me the man I am today. Or at least helped shape me into the best person I can be. Pokemon taught me it was OK to speak to strangers and force animals to fight, whilst Mario taught me everything I know about women and how to slide down flag poles. I feel privileged to have been able to play some of the classics that have been released on these devices, from the early Pokemon games on Nintendo’s Gameboy, to the GTA: Stories series on Sony’s PSP. I could have mentioned the Gameboy Color here, but I didn’t want to bring up it’s only flaw: the misspelling of it’s name (It’s definitely spelt ‘colour’ by the way…).
My question is this, and it’s totally rhetorical so don’t worry about answering it. Just think about it…
Is portable gaming dying?
In terms of dedicated consoles, I’m going to say ‘yes’. It may seem strange that I can say that when mobile gaming is certainly at it’s most successful. Mobile phones are becoming less of a phone and more of a bodily organ. We can’t put them down, and game developers are loving it. We’re seeing decent quality games in the palm of our hand. We have loads of console ports such as a few Final Fantasy games, Rayman, and even the Grand Theft Auto series (including GTA: San Andreas, which is absolutely huge!). We’re also getting console emulators cropping up all over the place that allow us to play old school classics from the NES and Playstation on our phones too. I’ve literally got just as many hours on some of my DS emulator ROMs as I have on the real games. As phones get more powerful, more and more will be release. It’s not just these ports from other console that have brought mobile phones to the forefront of handheld gaming; the likes of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja have brought considerable enjoyment to gamers on a more casual level. Although this platform of gaming has never been specifically targeted at true gamers – the likes that enjoy fully fledged action games, truly immersive RPGs, or just shooting your friends in the face in an FPS- there’s certainly a niche for those simple, yet addictive pickup and play games.
Dedicated handheld consoles have taken some beatings over the years, thanks to Steve Jobs. Although the 3DS is still swinging like a drunken guy at the bar that doesn’t know when to quit. The Vita, well, the less said, the better. Seriously though, I love the Vita. The PS Vita still remains my go-to device for long journeys but that’s about it. I love being able to get lost in Borderlands 2 when I’m stuck in the airport waiting for my delayed flight; or defying the laws of physics in Gravity Rush whilst relaxing on a sun lounger. Other than these moments, my treasured Vita sits patiently in my drawer waiting for next year’s holiday romance to commence.
Although my favourite handheld gets around 2-3 weeks worth of use during the course of the year, it’s still nowhere near as ignored as it is by its creator. Sony still continues to pretend that the PS Vita doesn’t exist. It’s rarely mentioned on advertisements or in their marketing campaigns. On the odd occasion it is whispered about, it’s usually as more of a footnote to other announcements; mentioning that a certain game is coming to PS Vita as well as PS4. Sometimes, it’s ignored entirely; with Sony portraying games like Full Throttle as a PS4 exclusive, despite it being released on both PS4 and PS Vita. Depending on what you’re into though, there are still plenty of titles to enjoy. If you’re into you popular run of the mill games, then you’re not in much luck. All of the larger developers have abandoned the PS Vita too. Fortunately, this has allowed the indie developers to thrive. There are also plenty of Japanese games being released in abundance and there are some crackers to be found in Trials of Cold Steel II and World of Final Fantasy. The Vita still proves popular in Japan, which has helped it survive for as long as it has. Sony’s baffling decisions and long-festering neglect haven’t killed the Vita, they’ve just crippled it a little. I’d struggle to recommend a Vita to anyone if they’re not into their indie games or certain RPG’s. If they’re after a AAA title then bar a few of the pre-2014 games they’d be really let down. I absolutely adored my PSP back in 2005 and had really hoped the PS Vita would get the same treatment. The PSP was slow out of the gate too, but the Vita just hasn’t lived up to what I had hoped for. As I’ve mentioned, it’s an awesome platform for retro games, JRPGs and indies but very little else, unfortunately.
Nintendo have added a little bit of life to the 3DS with the recent release of Pokemon: Sun and Moon. But other than this, the last ‘must-play’ title I can think of is Zelda: A Link Between Worlds from way back in 2013! BoxBoxBoy was a fun platform-puzzler that had a real simplistic elegance to it, but I can’t say that it’s really set the world alight. Of course, Super Mario Maker was released in 2015 and it reminded the world that the DS is still going as is everyone’s favourite plumber… that isn’t a porn star; but it was more of a subtle wave to people who awkwardly turned their heads pretending not to notice. Similar to how the Vita has released PS1 games, the newest 3DS can play classic SNES and Gameboy games through a built-in emulator. Which is obviously pretty cool… but it’s been available on smartphones for well over 5 years. It certainly doesn’t warrant upgrading from an older DS just for the ‘Virtual Console’ feature, does it? I just feel like they are quickly running out of ideas and innovation, resorting into needless gimmicks.
Nintendo’s highest earner and most successful game to date (at least I’d imagine so… but don’t take my word for it) was released less than 5 months ago, back in July. Worryingly, it was on iOS and Android that this game featured on. Amazingly, it took just 20 days to gross $100 million in revenue – the fastest time a mobile game has ever achieved this in its first month since launch. Of course, it was the highly anticipated Pokemon GO and it may have just opened the floodgates. It’s clear to me that there is more money to be made on mobile app stores than there is producing games for handheld consoles. I think deep down, Nintendo have known this for a while. Perhaps they have kept it towards the back of their minds, maybe to be used as a fallback plan, or a means of retreat. If the console market – both household and handheld – really does leave them behind, they could quite easily pick up all of their belongings, dump them onto mobile devices and ride off into the sunset; laughing all the while. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play official Nintendo games on an Android or iOS device? The likes of Pokemon: Yellow, Animal Crossing, Super Mario Bros 3 without the need for a third-party emulator? …I’m getting all flustered just thinking about it! There’s absolutely no doubt Nintendo would release additional peripherals too. Plastic controllers that can turn your phone into a Gameboy clone.
Seriously Nintendo! If you’re reading this, I’ll expect a job offer through the post – I’d make you billions! Make sure you send it quick though, otherwise it’ll get caught up in all of Santa’s mail.
I really do hope though, deep down, that Nintendo are far too focused with their new console to offer to whisk me away to Kyoto for an interview. The recently announced Nintendo Switch looks so promising. After the Wii and Wii U’s poor offering, the Switch really could bring Nintendo back to the forefront of the console market. It’s both a home console, and a portable handheld rolled into one. Although details are scarce, it looks revolutionary. I desperately hope that the Nintendo Switch will revitalise the handheld industry but at this current moment I fear for them. It has a shed-load of potential and my wet dream of being able to play Elder Scrolls: Skyrim whilst on the go has been realised, it is ridiculously appealing. If you haven’t already watched the announcement trailer, I’d suggest you check it out. Remember to keep your mouth closed though, I don’t want you drooling over your keyboard or phone!
So do you still play on your hand-held devices? Or are they collecting dust on a shelf somewhere, slowly diminishing in value?